Help Selecting An Enlarger : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Thanks in part to comments on this board, I recently purchased an Ebony 45S, my first large format camera. Although I have limited experience with other field cameras, I'm very happy with this choice and appreciate the detailed feedback from other Ebony owners which aided me in my purchase. Now I'm struggling to select an enlarger. I primarily shoot B&W landscapes and process my negatives in a Jobo CPP-2 drum and would like to process my own prints. I have a reasonable amount of darkroom experience, but it has all been 35mm and 120 and always with someone else's equipment. I now want to purchase my own enlarger. Like my choice of camera and lenses, I would prefer to make an investment in something that will last and produce optimal results. Can anyone recommend a specific brand or model enlarger? Anything to avoid? Anyone have an opinion on the Omega D5500? Thanks!

-- Scott Killian (, May 17, 2002


If you can go the price, Durst or DeVere.

-- John Hicks (, May 17, 2002.

I recently got a Saunders LPL 4550 and I really, really like it. Its a great enlarger. Wonderful light quality, the VCCE module works as promised. The whole thing works great. My only considerations were the cooling fan noise which I thought would bother me but it really does not and I did put a little tape over some light leaks. Before this I had various used and borrowed enlargers. Fooling with old enlargers and old cold light heads gave me a pain. I thought I was saving money but I was really wasting time and getting aggravated. The smaller or standard version Saunders is quite compact for a 4X5 enlarger and is suitable for small darkrooms and the price is very reasonable when compared to other new enlargers.

-- Henry Ambrose (, May 17, 2002.

I have been using Omega D series enlargers with Ilford Multigrade 500 heads on them for years. The enlarger is okay as long as it is wall mounted or at least braced at the top; the MG500 head is really a timesaver and produces excellent results. At this time they are only available used but is worth considering.

-- Jeffrey Scott (, May 17, 2002.

I have been using Omega enlargers with Ilford Multigrade 500 heads on them for years. The enlarger is okay as long as it is wall mounted or at least braced at the top; the MG500 head is really a timesaver and produces excellent results. At this time they are only available used but is worth considering.

-- Jeffrey Scott (, May 17, 2002.

I can also recommend a DeVere. There're mechanical marvels. Calling them "solid" is an understatement. I used to use a Beseler 45M and there is no comaprison.

The down side is that they're expensive, and not especially common. You can't find loads of accessories on eBay like you can for Beseler or Omega.

If you think you might be at this for a while (like the rest of your life), don't skimp on the enlarger. It's the second most important piece of hardware in your darkroom (after your trashcan).

-- Kevin Bourque (, May 18, 2002.

I found a Durst 138 (5X7) a few years ago. (graphic arts business going digital.) You will see these described as big, costly and just about ideal. I found mine at a bargain, it comes apart in 5 minutes to fit in a compact car, It includes the floor-to-table which is adjustable to within a foot of the floor, rock solid in alignment, and yes: just about ideal. They can easily be adapted to just about any light source. A 5x7 is nice for 4X5 to get more even lighting out to the corners. ....And gave me the nudge to get a 5X7 camera.

-- Gary Frost (, May 18, 2002.


I'm still using the Omega D2v that I bought used in the 1980's. It is built like a tank, and can be found used quite easily. Don't know about the others mentioned here, but I'm sure they must be good or they would have been rejected long ago by the pros here in this forum. (Do know that Caponigro uses a Durst 5x7).

The nice thing about the D2v is that its cost would be significantly less, without scarificing quality.

Hope this helps.


-- Bill Marsh (, May 18, 2002.


I had been using a Beseler 23CIILX condenser head for 10-12 years. Then went into 4x5 and bought a 45MXT Zone VI w/ cold light. After a short learning curve on the machine my prints (from any format - 35mm thru 4x5) are dramatically improved.

IMHO - cold light and 4x5 B & W is the way to go. But I've never used other brands of current offerings, so it's just my opinion and my experience. Some of friends are attached to their dicro heads. Some prefer condenser. Go figure.

Good hunting.


-- Steve Feldman (, May 18, 2002.


I had the use of an Omega D2 for a few years, condensor head....I hated it for many reasons. When it came time to build my own darkroom I managed to try out a few different enlargers, Beselers, Dursts, etc and came to the same conclusion as you....I wanted to make an investment in the best I could find....something that would last and produce optimum results.

I decided for me a De Vere was the solution so I spent a couple of years hunting for one...I was offered other enlargers at good prices but I hung out for the De Vere.

Well I got one, quite cheaply too from a lab that was going digital. It's a 504 model (4x5), freestanding enlarger with dichroic head. Unless you see one of these in the flesh you wouldn't believe how rock solid they are (the 4x5 and 8x10 use the same chassis), how well built they are, and how easy they are to use. My one has a 30 x 40" table that drops to the floor with a quick release mechanism, the focus and head lift adjustments are at the front of the table for easy don't have to strain your arms trying to focus for big prints.

You can see a photo of mine here, scroll down the page a bit.

-- Clayton Tume (, May 18, 2002.

I second the opinion about the Durst 138. They can be found rather cheap these days and they are indeed built like tanks. (But much easier to drive. :-) They are big, but the 7 feet plus height does pay off in the fact that you can easily change from a 8X10" print to a 24X30" in less than a minute.
I have seen ads in Sweden where these machines are for sale at about $500. (I bought mine some 15 years ago for $1600, including a rare original Durst coldlight head, but it has certainly payed off the investment.)
You can find some good info about the Durst 138 series at Durst Pro USA.

-- Björn Nilsson (, May 18, 2002.

If you are looking for an enlarger that will fit on a bench without needing holes cut in the ceiling.... have a look at the Durst Laborator 1200 ( Mine (bought used 580 GBP this year) has the CLS450 dichroic head.

Projects to 24x20 onto the baseboard with the head fully extended (5x4 inch neg & 150mm lens). For larger prints, head swivels 90deg for wall projection or whole column can be rotated 180deg (4 bolts to unscrew so a bit fiddly) to project on to floor with weighted baseboard. One day, I may make a height adjustable baseboard bench for it...

Cheers, and good hunting....

-- Bob (, May 18, 2002.

scott i have been using an omega d3v enlarger for about 12 years and really can't say anything bad about it. the enlarger is built like a tank, and works pretty well. mine was actually a contract enlarger built for the air force to enlarge aerial film so it has condensors that are 7" instead of the usual 6 1/2 (?) inch condensors. for that reason i have trouble finding negative carriers.

-- jnanian (, May 18, 2002.

Try RK Equipment.

-- Erik (, May 18, 2002.

I have an Chromega D5 XL with the colour head and it's as good a 4x5 enlarger as you'll find. In this part of the world you'll find five D series Omega enlargers for every 4x5 Durst or Besler. Subsequently you'll find more used bits like film holders available. Add good glass like Schneider Componon-S lenses or better and you're all set.

Having said that, if I was starting my photography business right now I'd forget all about a printing darkroom. Processing your film is still a good idea but I'd go with an excellent film scanner. In medium format that would be something like the Nikon 8000 and rumour has it that a 4x5 scanner from Nikon with the same specs isn't far away.

Then add either a great inkjet printer or a dye-sub model. Every day darkroom paper stock is being discontinued while inkjet paper stocks are being introduced.

I wonder how long companies like Omega will be around or at least manufacturing parts for increasingly obsolescent products. Will enlarger bulbs be available? Probably, but what's the plan if they aren't?

The cost for the digital printing "darkroom" even with a very expensive scanner will be less than a darkroom unless you manage to get everything used. Just price a set of new print tongs to see how overpriced new darkroom accessories are.

Another factor of expense is how much are you paying for that dedicated room in your house? You obviously have a computer already and almost certainly a printer of some sort. A scanner won't take up much room on top of that but a darkroom? I assume that you'll want plumbing and ventilation and you turn a room into something that will have one use. If you look at all the expense you'll see how much less expensive (and safer) digital is.

-- David Grandy (, May 19, 2002.

Thanks for the advice, but I'm not interested in going the digital route for a variety of reasons. I have a top of the line Mac, am fluent in PhotoShop, etc... However, LF photography is a hobby for me and I like the process as much as the result. Unless you make a living from photography, I also don't believe the cost/performance ratio of digital is even close to traditional methods yet, particularly for people shooting LF who want larger prints. The Nikon 8000 scanner you mention scans only 35mm and medium format, the 4x5 options out there are few and cost $6500 and up. As a result, I'm commited to making tradional prints.

-- Scott Killian (, May 19, 2002.

If you can, go with the DeVere. It took me over 20 years before I was in the position to purchase one. The wait was well worth it. They are built for more then one life time. Pity I wont be here to use it the second time around. Regards,

-- Trevor Crone (, May 19, 2002.

It's already been said, but the 138 Laborator really is great to work with. I only got one recently and can't say I've ever worked with a more solid enlarger. Used they go for a decent price these days and are well worth the investment. Vertical/Horizontal in no time, smooth operation, and if it turns you on - tilts - enough to make Scheimpflug jealous.

-- Riaan Lombard (, May 20, 2002.

I just ordered the Durst Laborator 1200. Highly reccomended over the competition.

-- Bob Haight (, May 22, 2002.

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